Camaldolese Creativity

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Community Retreat Spring 2002




Well good morning everybody. My topic for today is Kamalvali's Creativity and that's a deliberately
vague title and maybe even somewhat deceptive because I'm going at it sort of indirectly.
I'm going to give an historical example of Kamalvali's creativity and then after I talk
about the history, raise some questions out of that history for how it might inspire us
today and we'll see where the discussion leads from there. I'm certainly not proposing this
history as something to be reduplicated or imitated but something we can take inspiration
from. I'm actually going to deal with an example of Kamalvali's creativity in the late 14th,
early 15th century, the Florentine Renaissance and particularly the Kamalvali's influence on
Ficino and I'd like to tell you how my interest in this came about. My very best friend Martha
Lackner has a farm about 20 miles away from our monastery in Windsor but when I first got to know
her she also had an apartment in New York City and her husband was head of computers for the
third world at the United Nations and they got to be very good friends of mine and Michael by
the way was the one who set up the computer system for pharmacies in China. So he's had
a lot of links with the East particularly China and anyhow they have a son Dennis who in the early
90s was studying at the University of Virginia in history and he came home one semester and was
very down because he had signed up to do a paper on Marsilio Ficino and he needed the letters of
Ficino and Martha happened to mention this to me and I said I've got the letters of Ficino and I
just bought them recently from one of these book you know wholesalers that remained reading of
books and I thought to myself when I bought them well will I ever need the letters of Marsilio
Ficino but I had been reading James Hillman the Jungian psychologist and that got me very
interested in Ficino and I saw a lot of insight potentially there so I thought well they're so
cheap they were like three dollars a volume you can't go wrong you know anyhow well I bought
them and then they suddenly became useful so that I loaned them to Dennis and I've never gotten them
back but anyhow he went on he went on to to go to Oxford in history and when he went to Oxford he
wanted to concentrate on the Renaissance and he asked me if I had any suggestions for a topic for
his dissertation and I said yes why don't you write on the Commodities influence on the early
Renaissance in Italy and that's what he wrote on and so what I want to share with you is to try to
summarize his research. You know we have a copy of that now. We just got it. It's a totally different source.
Somebody loaned us a copy of that. Of his dissertation? Oh wonderful great okay well he has a I'd like to take a
look at it before I go. His mentor at Oxford is George Holmes who's one of the greatest experts on
the Renaissance and George Holmes told Dennis well first of all George Holmes didn't want him to write
on that topic because he said well it's been done and you know Paul Christeller at Columbia has
talked about the religious beginnings of the Renaissance in Italy. It doesn't really need to
be done and Dennis kept insisting. Dennis is an oblate by the way of Windsor and so he finally
got him okay to do it and after it was finished George Holmes said to him my boy you have done
nothing less than turn upside down our understanding of the beginnings of the Renaissance in Florence
and the connection with the Comaldolese. There is a book by Arthur Field titled The Origins of the
Platonic Academy in Florence and I haven't read it you know cover to cover but taking a quick look
at it he only gives one sentence to the influence of Traversari the great Comaldolese on the
beginnings of the Academy and and I'll speak about that later but anyhow Dennis's a dissertation
has been quite a breakthrough in the whole field of Renaissance studies and I hope he gets
that dissertation published as a book eventually. A conference that was held in London about three
years ago has finally been published by E.J. Brill in Leiden and that came out in December and it's
titled his essay is in it it's a first one the Comaldolese Academy Ambrosio Traversari,
Marsilio Ficino and the Christian Platonic Tradition and that's also one reason why
I talked about Christian Platonism or at least the roots of Christian Platonism and
its significance earlier this week is that you could never read something like this and
understand the significance of it unless you knew something about Platonism and Neoplatonism.
All right when I was at Comaldolese for the consulting in 97 I think it was we were in
that great meeting room I know that some of you were there and there's that sign in concrete over
the door that perhaps you remember in this room met Ficino and Ladino and so forth and so forth
and I remember looking at up at it and thinking well James Hillman would be very interested in
that and so it's interesting to see you know how these connections have come about. The
Comaldolese were conservators of Christian Neoplatonism simply because they were very
tied to early Christian sources such as the Desert Fathers and some of the you know of
course origin as you know many of the Western monks were Augustan origin were very great
influences through the whole of the Middle Ages and there have been studies of the libraries of
the monasteries especially in northern Europe. I think that Father Hugo at Comaldolese has done
a dissertation on the library of Comaldolese and its sort of history and I suppose its contents
and so forth I don't know and they were resourced and that was the fountain from which they were
drawing their inspiration for their contemplative practice and monastic life. The fathers of the
church and particularly the ascetical sources such as John Climacus. The vigor that the Comaldolese
had in dealing with the humanistic revival centered around the monastery of Sancta Maria
d'Angeli in Florence and particularly the figure of Ambrosio Travasari and I regret PD isn't here
because he studied all of that perhaps more in depth than I have and he could add a lot but
Travasari was a gifted linguist. He knew both Latin and Greek and in 1433 he translated Diogenes
Laertius' Lives of the Philosophers which is a picture of ancient Hellenistic philosophy. It
showed the breadth of Hellenic wisdom and the humanists of that day and age in Florence were
very eager to get manuscripts and translations of more of these sources. It's interesting that many
of the humanists were also in the world of commerce and they had the money to buy the
manuscripts and the Medicis were bankers of course and this is an interesting little tidbit because
they were bankers they had the vaults to store manuscripts in safely and so if you were interested
in humanistic studies and learning and translations and acquiring manuscripts you
certainly wanted to be friends of the bankers. It's as if you know you people nowadays wanted
to be friends with people up in Silicon Valley because you needed computers you know that kind
of thing. Travasari in his lifetime translated over 40 patristic texts which is amazing it's
just amazing amount of work in itself besides the leadership that he took and besides being
a linguist he was a theologian and a very moving force in the Commodolese. He eventually became
Father General and was working towards reform and so forth. In his monastery of Sancta Maria
d'Angeli in Florence he entertained Thomists and Aristotelians from Pisa who wanted to debate
about Platonism interestingly but most interestingly he was a very leading figure at the Council of
Florence. Some of you may know Stinger's book Charles Stinger's book Humanism and the Church
Fathers which is in English and is a study of Travasari and Church Fathers and a little bit
about its influence on the humanistic circles in Florence in the late 14th early 15th century but
Dennis goes on from Stinger and does more of a connection about how Travasari inspired the
beginnings of the Platonic Academy in Florence. At the Council of Florence which was 1439 I
believe one of the Byzantines who presented the Byzantine position was Gemistus Plathon and Plathon
showed up at the Council of Florence with the whole codex of the Platonic works and Travasari
became great friends with Gemistus Plathon and of course wanted the manuscripts and now wanted to
to get it and he got it he got a copy of it and it was at the Council of Florence and by the way
Travasari was the major translator in the early sessions of the Council of Florence but not only
a translator when it came to the difficult theological issues it was Travasari who was
able to point to the sources in the tradition that would settle questions such as the filial
quake controversy and so forth. As you know it never succeeded the Council never succeeded but
it came very close and it was a very important rapprochement between Christian East and Christian
West. I don't know that much about it so I don't know exactly why it didn't succeed but one of the
reasons the Byzantines were very eager to make this connection with Latin Christianity is that
the Turks were at their door and so they had a political pressure of wanting friends in the East.
It was at the Council of Florence that Cosimo de' Medici conceived the idea of reviving the
Platonic Academy and Arthur Field's book says that it was because of Gemistus Plathon but
Dennis would say that it was equally Travasari's influence if not even more so that's an interesting
point and as I said Arthur Field's book has only one sentence about you know the Camaldoli's
connection with the conception of having the revival of the Platonic Academy in Florence.
The ancient Platonic Academy had died in Athens in 529 and so from 529 the council was 1439 and
Cosimo de' Medici didn't really and Ficino didn't start the Academy till 1463 you know a good
number of years after almost 20 years after a little bit more than 20 years so there was a
kind of intervening time it was Ficino that was the real center of it but the catalyst behind it
was Travasari and the place of meeting for the Platonic Academy in Florence was Santa Maria
d'Angeli and even Gemistus Plathon was invited to lecture to the Camaldoli's monk at Santa Maria
d'Angeli. By the way my teacher of the history of philosophy was Father Ernest Kilzer from St.
John's Abbey in Collegeville and I remember him talking about the closing of the Platonic Academy
in 529 and he said at the same year that the light went out in the east the light went on in the in
the west at Monte Cassino so you know he was kind of a straight you know German professorial type
but when he talked about that he broke into this big smile being a Benedictine. So there is you
know over 900 years in which the Platonic Academy had been closed and the West became
dominated by Aristotelianism largely you know after the 13th century and here's this beginning
of a real revival it never had really been stamped out you know but a real revival with with the
15th century Camaldoli's. At the Council of Florence, Traversari had to leave abruptly because his
mother was ill and when the key points over dogma arose later Cardinal Cesarini wrote a note to
Traversari who was then up at Camaldoli because he was the general and said De Mitte Camaldolum
et totem ordinam et veni leave Camaldoli and leave the whole order and come back because you know we
really need you you're the one that can help us work out these issues. All right so it was very
important. The early Florentine humanists were vitally interested in the soul's ascent to God.
They were deeply interested in spirituality and they looked to the Camaldoli's not only because
they were a link to the ancient you know Greek fathers and so forth and they were a source of
sources and they had talent and so forth but also because they were an inspiration as far as their
lifestyle. You know the ancient notion of philosophy is that a philosophy is not just an academic
theory or something but it's lived, it's a life way. That's why even in early monasticism sometimes
monastic life was called the true philosophy because it was a way of life. So the ancient
philosophers like the Epicureans you know actually lived a lifestyle that expressed their philosophy.
Eventually 15th century humanism became more secularized and in northern Europe took on a
very anti-clerical you know an anti-church element but the early Renaissance was deeply spiritual.
Even Ficino moved into concerns with magic and astrology and Hermes Trismegistus and
so forth but in the beginning there was this deep interest in theology and spirituality.
There is a scholar at UCLA Michael Allen who has written on Ficino's theology extensively
and that's not that far away so you might want to get him up sometime.
An interesting point to me is that I think that the Byzantines when they came to Florence saw
in the Commodoles you know something like first cousins. They could recognize the style of life
and the spirituality and so forth and that was already a deep resonance that they felt with
the Travesari and especially the group at Santa Maria d'Angeli. They recognized the skeet pattern
for example, hermitages, which they would not have recognized, they wouldn't have had that deep
connection with Franciscans or Dominicans and so forth. With the Commodoles there was this evident
connection. I don't know, I know you've had Callistos Ware here, I don't know if he's ever
talked about that. Has he ever talked about that? I've heard. Not particularly about that period.
But he thinks our place, I believe for him the closest pattern of our hermitage should be the
the laurel in Palestine in the ancient time. The laurel in Palestine. And he advised us to do some more study to see the pattern.
Very good. That's his encouragement. Very good, yeah, precisely. Well I've heard through other sources,
friends of Callistos Ware that he has a very great appreciation for Commodoles and that's probably why.
So the catalyst behind Ficino was Travasari. And it's very interesting that, you know, he invited
Gnistus Plathon to speak to the monks. Ficino was asked to give a whole series of lectures at Santa Maria d'Angeli.
He gave sermons at Santa Maria d'Angeli. And Dennis showed me some of the Xerox copies he had made from the
Latin manuscripts, a description of sort of the Ratio Studiorum of the monks at Santa Maria d'Angeli.
And it was just absolutely amazing. The things that the young monks were being trained in.
Interestingly, Ficino said if you're really going to understand the meaning of these platonic texts,
you must study them with conditis mentibus, whitened minds.
And what he meant was the minds of the Commodoles, because condidari meant to take the Commodoles habit.
And so whitened mind was you're going to have to have the spirituality, the disposition,
the religious sensibility of the Commodoles in order to really understand these Commodoles texts.
Who said that again?
That was Ficino, interestingly.
Ficino taught at Santa Maria d'Angeli and under the dome of Bruno Laschini.
I've never been to Florence. I know some of you have.
And that was the dome at the monastery. Is that the dome now at the Florence Cathedral? The Duomo?
Bruno Laschini.
Bruno Laschini?
Bruno Laschini.
Very interesting. By the way, that's the first dome ever built in the West that had no supports when it was built.
So it's a real marvel of architecture.
When Ficino's sermons on Paul's letter to the Romans, it starts with this introduction.
In medio conspecto ecclesiae laudabo te.
In the middle of the church I praise you, O Lord.
In conspecto angelorum solem tibi.
The angelorum were the Commodoles brethren who were gathered around to hear those sermons.
So Dennis's thesis is this, that the Commodoles played a central and hitherto unrecognized role
in the conception, establishment, teachings, and wider influence of the Platonic Academy.
The Renaissance Platonists saw in the Commodoles' life the embodiment of Platonic principles.
Very, very interesting.
Just one short reading from the last page of this.
I can leave this essay, and I meant to bring the book of essays that this appeared in,
but I can leave it, and I think you'd want to get the volume eventually.
He says this.
Why is it that the early Florentine humanists look so strongly to the Commodoles?
And by the way, a couple generations later, you had the Disputationis Commodolensis at Commodole,
which were the discussions between Ficino,
and that's why that concrete sign's above the door, that grand Allah at Commodole.
And those are in Latin, but they are going to be translated.
There's a critical edition coming out.
It's being worked on by Jill Cray, and will be coming out.
Why did they look to the Commodoles?
Grounded in the Benedictine rule and recitation of the Psalms and following a strict observance,
a number of Commodoles' houses produced martyrs, saints, and hermit confessors,
whose lives of prayer and work presented a marked contrast to the splendid ostentations of the humanist courtiers.
And yet somewhere in a remote cell in the Aconine forest, the two worlds met,
to the hermitage of Commodole, Bembo, and Castiglione,
repaired from the pleasure and platonic discussions of the court of Urbino,
and humbled themselves at the feet of a simple hermit to beseech the divine mercy.
I read that to Martha, and I said, your son is quite a romantic,
putting themselves at the feet of a simple hermit.
In a way it's true, but it's a bit of rhetoric here.
It was the meeting of this monastic vocation with the Platonist movement,
which produced such far-reaching effects on the development of Renaissance thought.
The order embodied a living bridge between the mystical philosophy of Platonism and faith in Jesus Christ.
The meeting of these two worlds is manifest in the platonic commentaries of Ficino,
and the philosophy and poetry of Orlandini, and the Ocellani of Bembo.
While the doctrines of the Florentine Platonists struck a resounding chord among the Commodoles,
the mystical spirituality of the Commodoles informed and enlivened the Florentine Platonists.
This meeting between Platonism and monastic mysticism
determined the direction of Commodoles reformers in the next century,
who themselves in turn profoundly influenced the Catholic Reformation.
I think he's referring to Justiniani,
who obviously turned away from the secular humanism of the Renaissance,
and somewhat rejected it.
When the Commodoles hermit Paolo Justiniani spoke of the contemplative ascent in the early 16th century,
he wrote of contemplation in terms evocative of Plato's cave.
This, I think, is packed with a little danger.
Thus I am unable to see a shadow, a remote but clear image of a life which is true life.
Then do I scorn the life which is death, rather than life for this earthly life
I value only as it helps me to acquire the one true life.
That can be a little bit excessive, I think,
because it can mean a rejection of the human and society and so forth,
the very danger of the Platonic tradition.
All right, so I thought I'd share that with you, but then raise a couple questions.
It's obviously not a question of reduplicating,
or of even trying to plug into that Platonic stream,
but I think it's very important to know about.
I think you don't really understand and appreciate the image doctrine in Christianity
unless you know the Platonic background for it.
But the significant thing, I think, is that the late 14th, early 15th century,
and then through several more generations,
the Commodolese were very much in dialogue
and connected to the humanist vitality that was in the air.
And so we might ask in our day and age,
where is the vital creative humanism of our day?
Where is the integral humanism of our day?
Who's giving a humanist vision that there are pieces of the puzzle, as it were?
For example, the work of Tom Berry about root theology
and people talking about eco-feminism.
All of these are sort of like sparks,
but who's drawing it together?
Who's doing the integration?
Who's giving the more total view?
This is a question, I think, that we have to ask ourselves.
Who are the weathervanes for an integral humanism in our day?
And whereas the Florentine Academy, the Platonic Academy of Florence,
was not an academy in the modern sense of a university,
but it was a group of friends.
And they really came to Sancta Maria di Angele.
That was the place of their meeting.
It was more like a group of friends and like a salon,
a group that met for coffee and tea and discussion.
So who are the weathervanes?
Who are the individuals who are giving the integral vision in our day
that are worth paying attention to, plugging into, and so forth?
Who are the theologians, the spiritual writers, the poets,
the authors of fiction, whatever it might be,
who are on the frontier of that integral, holistic humanism
that we could dialogue with today,
and I think already are dialoguing with.
So throw it out for your discussion.
A point and a question.
The point is that Thomas More loves Ficino.
Of course, he's a student of Hillman.
The Careless Soul, and what was the other one?
His Careless Soul?
Soulmates, yeah.
I think it's specifically in Soulmates he makes a big deal about Ficino.
Could you give a little more background as to exactly who he is?
I'm not sure anybody would know.
Well, he was a great humanist and translator, collector of manuscripts,
and also a creative writer.
That's why I said Michael Allen, who's down at UCLA,
is one of the great experts on Ficino, and he's not far from here.
The energy of the Renaissance was that it brought the old and the new together,
and they went back to, out of the kind of death that was so dominant
in the late Middle Ages with nominalism and the Black Death and all of that,
they looked to ancient Greece for springs of vitality,
ancient Hellenism and so forth.
So I don't know that much about Ficino.
He was the son of the physician of the Medicis, and he was kind of a chosen,
he was chosen by the Ficinos to be educated
and became the leading spirit of the early Florentine Renaissance.
Begging your patience a little bit,
what would you think a humanism in Renaissance Florence,
what would be the difference between that kind of humanism
and a humanism in the 21st century?
What would it be like then, what would it be like now?
It was so small in Italy, it was just a handful of scholars,
but that spirit spread, whereas we're living in such a global world,
and it tended to be still Western even though it went back to the east of the Greeks,
but now we have a universal picture,
and so we have the whole globe and not just Latin and Greek civilizations.
So we have the whole universal picture, all of humanity.
It's everything that characterizes the 21st century,
the impact of technology, the blessings of technology, but also the negative side.
I want to tell you a story about James Hillman.
One chapter of my dissertation is heavily inspired by Hillman,
and when I was just about ready for the defense of my dissertation,
Dr. Cousins said to me, I want you to call James Hillman and meet with him
and have a discussion about what you're saying,
and I said, oh no, I don't want to do that.
I really don't want to do it because Hillman has a reputation
for being quite anti-Catholic in some of his writings,
and anti-Christian to some extent too.
I really didn't want to get into an unapologetical struggle with him,
but Dr. Cousins insisted, so I sat down at my computer one afternoon
and wrote up the letter and tossed it into the mailbox that day,
and that night I had a dream that I was debating with James Hillman,
and I was pounding on the table and saying, but Gregorian chant really works.
So about two weeks later I called James Hillman and said,
is there a date that we could get together, when are you free?
And between his schedule and my schedule we couldn't work it out.
The first thing he said to me was, don't take too seriously what I've said
in some of my writings about Christianity.
It was very interesting.
So he was conscious that he had been a bit lopsided.
He at that time said you should talk to Thomas More, which I've never done.
Just an observation based on a simple reading of Thomas More,
and the community has never heard the story,
but one of the great successes of Epiphany was precisely Thomas More,
who said his only connection with the Catholic Church was Epiphany,
because he was so disgusted with religious life in general,
and of course religious and church structures and teaching,
because he wanted to see a combination of faith, contemplative life,
and then involve an immediate involvement in culture.
He published that in several ways.
He did some work in which he constantly referred to,
my family and I are rooted in a monastery in our neighborhood, which is Epiphany,
and went on and on to develop it.
He even said that he would give the money from his book rights
to support Epiphany, protest.
Any money he wanted he would give.
He said, all I have to do is give one weekend workshop and I can give you $100,000.
So he was completely devoted to that,
because he wanted to see the monastery in the neighborhood that would be contemplative,
and so he said, the reason I'll give you money is I don't want you to work,
in the sense of getting plugged into the diocese or doing extraneous things,
so that we can come and worship.
And that I still hear from them, from the family,
so I think one of the great pains for them is,
they feel they've had to drop out of the church entirely,
because there's nothing happening.
But he wanted, it's a very Renaissance kind of approach.
For example, we were crucial to the blessing of,
he built a castle on a mountain,
which regularly gets struck by lightning because it's New Hampshire
and the mountaintops get struck.
And he wanted us to come for the blessing,
but in that blessing there were people from every tradition,
you know, Christian, non-Christian, so forth,
some New Age stuff as well,
and it was just marvelous,
because he wanted to come home,
this is part of his home,
and just an amazing person.
It's interesting he built a castle,
because that's quite in the tradition,
Jung built a little castle, you know, of his own.
And it's a perfect proportion,
it's straight from the Greek actually,
perfect geometric proportions for each room.
So it's not huge, but it's an incredible place.
And he wanted us to, you know, feel free to use it,
even when they were gone,
like you're in Ireland,
wouldn't you like to use our castle?
I would say about Thomas More
that I found his first book quite disappointing,
you know, The Care of Soul.
It started out great,
and I thought this is going to be wonderful,
but it sort of starts out great,
and then I just was, you know,
but the thing about Thomas More is I sensed he was searching,
and I heard an interview of him on radio,
and he said the one thing that he really wanted to explore
was his roots in Catholicism.
You know, he wanted to find a spirituality
and a religious, you know,
he knew he needed that for integration.
So he was on a journey, definitely.
Just to back up to yesterday,
when we were talking about the Epiphatic,
I think it's a misunderstanding,
I'm going to comment that a lot of the traditions
see an aspect of the Gospel.
You mentioned something about,
well, we've got to keep the Creed.
I think there's a difference in Revelation
and what people can ascertain
from their contemplative experience.
And so from this contemplative experience,
they see God as this emptiness,
God as this blackness, God as this...
And so to me, that's all true.
But on top of that,
we have the benefit of having the mystical,
but also the revelation.
So we have to keep in tension
the revelation of the Trinity, of Christ, and all that.
When we go through our experiences of the darkness,
and the blackness, and the peace,
and we realize that's God,
we also know there's a revelation here.
Anyway, just to clarify that.
Right. Well, I wanted to point out
that I wasn't referring to the Creed
in terms of denying the apophatic.
I mean, that's a very, very important thing
in the Christian tradition.
We have sensed the apophatic.
But you've got the thing in the Creed about creation,
and that certainly goes back to the Genesis picture.
We can deal very creatively with the question of creation,
whether it's process theology, and so forth.
So I was just saying that
we've got this heritage within Christianity
that we have to deal with creatively.
But even in terms of Christ,
the kenosis of Christ
is the entrance into the apophatic,
because he's dying into the mystery,
which is, you know...
That's true, but for ecumenism,
we can't deny our other brothers of the tradition
that they can't have an authentic experience.
Well, I wasn't ever...
Even though they don't recognize Christ.
So it's not always the whole intention.
Christ is the path,
but others in the Buddhist tradition,
they can't.
Oh, yeah. Well, there's no doubt.
I mean, even Panakari would say
that the Buddhists honor the silence of the father,
and the religions of the book
are very much geared to the sun and the logos, and so forth,
and that Hinduism is particularly the religion of the spirit.
I mean, there's some way of honoring
a kind of three great systems out there,
the trinity and the religious experience of mankind.
And even Cardinal Danilu,
who would not be somebody you'd look to for a broad vision, for example,
said, when Christianity truly meets Hinduism,
there will be a new theology of the Holy Spirit.
So, yeah, there is a...
I would in no way try to say Christianity is the only path.
We do have a kind of conundrum or paradox
that we have the fullness of revelation,
I think that's true,
and yet it's not exclusive.
It's inclusive, if anything,
and always needing to stretch itself
outside of its containers,
which are sometimes very limiting.
Okay. So, yeah.
About those Platonists,
where do you think the excitement was for them in favor?
Did they know what God is?
Was it an anthropology?
Was it something about the human person
that was in the Platonism that inspired them?
Or why did they go in that direction?
The Renaissance Platonism inspired them.
They seemed to be going two directions at once.
One is a movement into the world almost,
and the awakening of the human person
in a new, free way in the world of Renaissance energy.
And the other is a re-attractive Platonism.
Why did they choose Platonism?
Aristotelianism seemed to follow that movement
into the world more closely,
with the Aquinas and so on.
So, it's a misreading.
It's probably the same reason why they went towards the monks,
and the reason why they went towards Plato,
but it's not clear to me why it was Plato.
Well, it's very interesting to trace
how the Platonist tradition
even survives in the West.
It gets eclipsed strongly
by Aristotelianism in the 13th century.
And then we have it being very much
an inspiration in the early Renaissance.
And then we get the Cambridge Platonists,
you know, kind of a little spark again of it.
And I would love to kind of trace all of that sometime.
And even nowadays, contemporaries,
I mean, not contemporaries,
but people of our own age, so to speak,
C.S. Lewis and Tolkien,
Owen Barfield, I think.
These people had some sort of plug in to that tradition.
You know, maybe it's a self-initial.
Maybe it's wanting to get away from that
narrow sense of rationalism, of reason,
of scientific reason, logical reason.
It's like the Goethe-Bend of the modern moose,
sort of, you know, how the intellect contemplates it.
Yeah, I think that Aquinas
really shrunk the sense of the mind.
And I mentioned yesterday the article
that I really would like to leave with you,
because I don't think you have it here,
The Influence of the Pseudo-Dionysius
on Western Mysticism.
This is Bob David Knowles,
who says this about Aquinas
and Aristotelian epistemology.
I think in a way it comes back to the notion of mind
and the mind's ability to,
put it in crude language,
plug into the divine,
whether it can be sapiential or not.
This is what Don David Knowles says.
Still more important and decisive
was the Aristotelian epistemology,
the analysis of the act of understanding.
This had been overlaid in the West
for almost a millennium by the prevailing
Platonic and Neoplatonic climate.
Knowledge was attained, so it was taught,
by rising above sense shadows,
either by dialectic to the form of things, Plato,
or to the ideas seen in the reflection
of mind and the soul, Aquinas,
or in the light of the word of God, Augustine.
Aristotle, on the other hand,
gave a common-sense humanist view,
and I think an anemic one,
if I could put it that way.
The mind presented with sense perceptions
and governed by innate first principles
makes from them a concept
expressing their essence and nature.
On this showing, God could be known,
apart from revelation,
only as the creator of the first cause.
That's what I was referring to the other day.
Any further knowledge and love
could only come by a supernatural infusion
of knowledge and love
upon the potentio obedientialis of the soul.
This was contemplation, supposedly.
By this teaching, the coup de grace
was given to the Augustinian
divine illumination of the soul.
That's what Platonism has a sense of,
the divine illumination of the soul,
as a normal way of knowledge.
Even the Franciscan Don Scolius gave it up.
I showed that to Ewert Cousins one time,
and he says, well, that sure puts it very well.
It's a sapiential,
and it's also the immediate connection
with the sapiential in the self,
and also the connection with it
and the participation in it.
Because, well, you know,
the pseudo-Dionysius,
though he may be weak in some respects
in terms of a wider Christian theology,
has a sense of participation.
So that's why.
And there's a very interesting little pocket
of Christian Platonism at Downside Abbey.
Don Ilter Tretton was a Christian Platonist
in our day and age.
He's deceased now.
And Elrod Watkin,
some of you may know his book,
The Bull and the Clouds.
It's an older book,
but it gives an integral vision
in a theoretical way,
of different kinds of knowledge and so forth.
Jacques Maritain,
in Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry,
virtually says,
yeah, there was something wrong
with Thomas' epistemology,
that it couldn't deal with
the imaginal, the creative, the poetic.
That's quite a statement for Maritain to say.
And we've talked about the loss
of the appreciation for psyche
and the imaginal in the West.
And of course,
there were always people who were creative
who were still finding it.
But the depreciation for psyche
and the imaginal in the West
to the agent intellect of acquaintance,
which is quite an assertion to make.
But this is a very specialized question.
But it's interesting to follow
where Platonism does inspire people.
There's something in it.
And I don't have the answer either.
Aquinas didn't really throw to the psychic, did he?
Didn't he just make it more of a distinction
between the psychic and the mind?
And to me, that's a valid distinction,
because you know spiritual things
through the psychic,
and the mind is more of this
rational type of
synthetic thought.
Whereas the psychic is more of this
direct intuition of the presence,
which is the revelation of God.
And then there are a lot of times
we don't know the difference
when we're actively thinking
or unless we're in some state of contemplation,
we know we're dealing not with the mind,
but with the psyche.
Well, this is precisely
what I'm going to talk about Monday.
Soul and spirit, or psyche and mind, and so forth.
There is a sense in the Christian medieval world
that the mind is a spiritual faculty.
There's a difference between mens and intellectus.
Intellectus is spiritual.
Mens is ratio.
It's the calculating mind.
It's the discursive mind.
Intellectus is something different.
It's a difference also between
what Bonaventure, for example,
calls the ratio superior
and the ratio inferior.
The lower mind, you know,
is the everyday calculating, managing mind,
you know, valuable, extremely valuable,
but the higher, intuitive, spiritual mind
is a spiritual faculty.
And I'd venture to say
it maybe even was for Thomas, okay?
What happens later to mystic tradition
is another thing.
But that's something that we,
in our day and age, need to recover
is a sense of, you know,
you either get an anti-intellectualism
which dismisses, you know,
rational thought, theology, and so forth,
or you get mind games in theology.
But that's why even somebody like David Tracy
would say the future of theology
lies in connecting it with contemplative practice.
Because it's through contemplative practice
we can nourish the intellectus.
So there is that higher mind.
Yeah, it's a matter of definition.
And it's really not in your mind,
it's in the psyche.
You know, it's our definition,
so you would say it's the higher mind.
Well, I would say
what I would use for what you're calling psychic
would be intuitive and imaginal,
and, you know, there are many ways
you could talk about it.
It's hard to find, you know,
hard to find and cast definitions
when you come to this.
So you've got to sort of play with it.
That's what I'm going to do on Monday.
Talk about soul and spirit,
but not in terms of philosophical definition
so much as trying to
play around it in order to get a perception of it.
No, that's what Don David Knowles is saying.
It's not just a question of the infusion,
you know, of grace.
Although there certainly are gifts of the Holy Spirit,
I would never deny that,
wisdom and knowledge, okay?
But there's also already, by nature,
you know, by creation in the person,
the intellectus, which is a spiritual faculty.
In the early Christian tradition,
especially Augustine,
and certainly in Bonaventure,
the intellectus is a spiritual faculty.
Yeah, but enrichment is
what I mean or my job in the first place.
Yeah, exactly.
One of the ways that's discussed the best
is in John Scotus Aragona,
the Irish theologian,
who, by the way, did teach himself Greek
and was able to plug into some of the
Greek fathers that the West
really had no contact with,
such as Gregory of Nyssa's,
I forgot the name of it,
what's on the image doctrine, basically.
John Scotus Aragona says
there's a difference between the datum,
which is already given,
you know, the past participle of do,
and the donum,
which is the extra gift, okay?
What happened when you get to later,
I mean, medieval Christianity,
there's this increasing divide
between nature and grace,
and nature is looked upon as simply,
you know, nature, creation,
which is without anything spiritual,
and that's the virtue of Platonism.
Platonism realizes there's something spiritual
about the already given, okay?
The datum is already given, you know,
and the gifts are there,
and the divine adherence is there,
the yeast that's lifting us back to God, you know.
When you have that turn towards the rational
in the 13th century, we begin to lose that.
Now, it's very interesting that
in the 16th century and 17th century,
when the Jesuits are trying to combat Jansenism,
they come up with the sense that
nature is indifferent.
It's neither good nor bad.
You know, because they're trying to save nature,
you know, from the Jansenists who say,
you know, the human person is full of sin
and unworthy and so forth.
They're trying to make a step forward by saying,
well, it's not inherently evil,
it's simply indifferent, morally indifferent,
which doesn't say much for creation, okay?
And so the division between nature and grace
becomes even more pronounced in the 17th century.
Who wrote the book Sir Natural de Lubach?
There is a very good history of that.
Brother Mark?
Doesn't the rudimentary part of the mind
deal more with knowing or making decisions
and opinions?
The psyche part of the mind, or the psyche,
deals more with unknowing or open kind of thought,
which doesn't really settle
and constantly is in motion.
I think I would agree with you.
I don't know if I'd call it psychic,
but I'd call it the level of wisdom.
But even in mathematics,
can be a kind of lifting to wisdom.
I mean, some mathematicians and cosmologists are,
that's why we're finding this connection nowadays
between some of the natural sciences,
the physicists, the cosmologists, and so forth.
And so even the inferior calculating mind,
if it stays outside,
it gets out of its golf box that it's in,
can open up to these contemplative intuitions of truth.
E.I. Watkins' book The Bone in the Clouds
might be a good picture of that.
But the quantum, the new quantum physics
and quantum geometry and all of that deals,
it seems to me to deal more with a different kind of,
it's a different kind of math
that doesn't have answers as much as questions.
It doesn't seem to settle and answer.
It just seems to keep asking and analyzing.
Yeah, well, it's out of this golf box kind of little thing,
and it's exploring.
It's moving to a frontier.
Father Joseph.
I like your comment from David Tracy
about the future theology
would be connected with contemplative practice.
And I think William Johnston said something similar,
but he's starting points about the situation
of inter-religious, interfaith dialogue.
There's so much of the West and East,
and the Eastern traditions are very much contemplative,
based on contemplative and mystical experience.
So he said naturally or inevitably
the future of the Christian theology,
because of its contact with the Eastern religions,
will also take mystical experience more seriously
in their theological reflections.
And I wanted to discuss or to see the Platonism.
With Platonism, or Neoplatonism,
we think about more the apophatic approach.
They represent that.
But it's interesting in the conference last week
at the Gethsemane,
and Hubert Carson was there, the elderly man.
And he's old, with difficulty with movement,
but still very sharp.
Very clear, very sharp in his mind.
And once we were sitting together at the table with him,
I was just talking to him,
and his impression of the whole view
of Catholic and contemporary spirituality and so on,
the Catholic Christian spirituality,
he said there is some off-balance.
Too much emphasis on the apophatic,
the neglect of the cataphatic.
He thinks the contemporary Cistercian, for example,
their spirituality is not real,
does not really reflect the early Cistercian fathers,
like Bernard or the early Christian.
They are very cataphatic.
I mean, they have an apophatic approach,
but they're basically cataphatic in the humanity of Jesus.
That's the heart of his spirituality.
He said nowadays, like Thomas Keating and so on,
centering prayer,
but it doesn't really reflect that.
So during the week of the Buddhists,
mostly Zen tradition and so on,
so of course the apophatic is more emphasized.
But then towards the end,
there was the Pure Land tradition also spoke,
and that's more devotional, more cataphatic,
the constant invocation of Buddha.
And your cousin was excited,
and he said,
well, perhaps we can see also something
in our Christian Catholic tradition.
And interestingly, he points out Bonaventure.
He thinks Bonaventure should be restored
with the cataphatic dimension of Bonaventure.
It was interesting,
and he talks about, of course, the Franciscan tradition
is also basically cataphatic, Franciscan.
And then he talks,
then I thought of him,
what about the influence of pseudo-Dionysius,
because he talked about Bonaventure,
the neo-Platonism and Platonism in Bonaventure.
So I naturally say,
well, like pseudo-Dionysius or Platonism,
they represent a very strong apophatic tradition.
So if Bonaventure is influenced in that tradition,
how can you present Bonaventure as cataphatic?
And he said,
no, if you look at pseudo-Dionysius,
the four major works,
mystical theology is apophatic,
but really it is the divine names and so on,
or the divine hierarchy.
That's very cataphatic.
And then even Plotinus,
for example, Plotinus is primarily apophatic,
but he also sees cataphatic aspects in Plotinus.
So that was interesting.
Right, I kind of understand what he's saying.
Let me just give you another very concrete example of that.
In January, I was getting over a little illness,
and I was in bed.
And I decided to read Ken Wilber's account
of the death of his wife by cancer,
grit and grace,
because I thought that would be an easier thing to read
than try some of the other stuff from Ken Wilber.
But anyhow, I decided to read that,
and it was a rather huge volume.
So I'm reading this,
and I get about halfway through,
and he's talking about as his wife diminishes,
he goes off into sort of a Buddhist way of dealing with it.
You know, there really is no suffering.
It's off here.
And I slammed the book down together,
and I got off the bed and said,
that's why I'm not a Buddhist.
I mean, that came from my gut.
Even though I have a great honoring of Buddhism
and the apophatic tradition and so forth,
it was to me a very great example
of how the very concrete can be forgotten,
and, you know, the world.
And yes, Bonaventure,
one of the talks I thought about giving here
was the excellence of the Franciscan tradition
because of Bonaventure particularly.
And he needs to be, you know,
refurbished for the 20th century
and 21st century,
and there's some very interesting
Franciscan theologians doing that.
And St. Bonaventure's University in Ollian
has a special college now called
Clerc College within the university
that's kind of an honors program,
and the whole curriculum is set up
with Bonaventure as the center.
It's inspiring, the whole thing.
Very interesting to see how that works.
And of course, Cousins was a big inspiration behind that.
Yes, precisely.
We need to deal, you know, with God,
the apophatic, and as Bruno says,
the cosmos, the created reality,
the phenomenal world,
the individual, the psychic, you know,
all of that, including the bodily, so forth.
And we need to deal with the collective,
the rational.
That's why I have such a great appreciation
for the Confucian tradition.
It stays in the world, you know.
I mean, I love, I'm myself personally a Taoist.
I'd love to sit in a hermitage on a hilltop,
but I appreciate the fact that the Confucians
try to live that spirituality
in a concrete, in some society,
through service of others, and so forth.
Most Chinese are both.
Yes, most Chinese are both.
That's wonderful.
Okay, all right, thank you.